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Singapore Detains Record Number Of Oil Tankers As Shadow Fleet Expands

Singapore, a major hub for oil transportation and storage, has detained this year a record-high number of oil and chemicals tankers that have failed to pass inspection-more than the number of detained tankers in the whole decade to 2019.

As old tankers are increasingly used by Russia to ship its crude oil and products without Western insurance, the crackdown on vessels without all safety features in place has intensified in Asia in recent months. Asia is now the top destination for Russian crude oil after the EU embargo and the G7 price cap on Russia's oil sold to third countries.

So, year to date, Singapore has held as many as 33 vessels that have failed safety checks and inspections, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, citing data from regional port control organization Tokyo MOU. That's more than all tankers detained by Singapore in the decade to 2019. In April 2023 alone, Singapore held 9 vessels, the highest number since at least 2010, according to the data.

For the whole of 2022, Singapore detained 28 tankers, and most of the detentions took place in the second half of the year, per Tokyo MOU's data cited by Bloomberg. 

The "dark fleet," or "shadow fleet" of oil tankers expanded significantly in the second half of last year after the EU and the G7 said they would ban imports of Russian crude oil and slap a price cap of $60 per barrel if the cargoes with Russia's crude wanted to use Western liability insurance and financing.

As the number of old oil tankers shipping Russian oil has soared, Chinese authorities in the Shandong province have reportedly increased the safety checks on old vessels arriving at the major oil import port of Qingdao, holding ships more than 20 years old at the port for weeks.

Last year, an unusually large number of tankers changed ownership in what analysts and shipping industry officials believe was a push from Russia to continue shipping large volumes of its crude and entities willing to profit from the Russian oil trade in a sanctions regime. The 'dark' or 'shadow' fleet of oil tankers is growing to now include tankers not only shipping sanctioned Iranian and Venezuelan oil but also increasingly larger volumes of Russian oil and products.  

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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Tsvetana Paraskova

Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.  More